Former Eastender’s star Ricky Groves is back in panto in Peterborough at the Cresset as Beauty & The Beast begins its fantastic run on Saturday December 14.
This great family panto stars Jackie Travers from Big Brother and TV gadget guru David McClelland as well as Ricky who brings us some slapstick fun as Silly Billy.
ESP’s Alex Jones caught up with the actor who most people will remember as Garry Hobbs in the BBC soap.
Ricky – “I think you’re right the Americans have no take on it, they like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I see it as another string to my bow, it’s very much children’s entertainment and it fits in with the season of goodwill. It’s Christmas, New Year is around the corner so come to the theatre and watch your kids smile and laugh!”
You played Idle Jack in Dick Whittington and you’re back by popular demand…
“Well I don’t know about that I think it’s more the fact I’m local but continue!” he laughs.
..and this year you’re playing the part of ‘Silly Billy’.
“Yeah I think I’m right in saying Beauty and the Beast is not one of the generic classics in terms of pantomime but it’s going to be a fantastic show nevertheless. The production values are going to be equally as good as last year. “
So what does it take to be a great comedy pantomime character?
“I’m still learning, I think we’re all learning really. Luckily our director John Newman has been doing this for years and knows exactly what is required for a successful show. It’s for the kids primarily so we need to focus on entertaining them first but of course we slip in one or two jokes that are universally funny.
“You’ve got to hit all the right notes really, once you’re up and running it’s good to have a smooth running show were all your jokes are well rehearsed but of course sometimes the fun comes out of when things do go wrong! There’s been a few times when curtains and things have come down at wrong times and when that does happen you just have to think on your feet.”
“I wouldn’t have said that straight away but yeah I suppose you’re right really. It was never intentional to make Garry from Eastenders more comical but when I first got the part there were already a lot of heartthrobs and villain types.
“So I thought, longevity being the key for a successful soap character, adding a comic twist to the character would be a good move. It added a bit of light to the dark, I mean they started to really lay it on thick when they partnered me up with Cliff Parisi (Minty) and we played the odd couple really!”
As mentioned earlier you were in Peterborough last year doing Panto, how was the experience?
“Like every city, including Peterborough every audience you perform to is different! I try to do one thing – to have people coming out of the theatre at the end saying ‘I really enjoyed that’ and seeing that the kids have enjoyed themselves.”
You did ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ back in 2009 have you continued the ballroom dancing since then?
“No, I do still do a little bit of dancing here and there and all that training I did for it, I think I did around 9 weeks, has held me in good fettle for jobs where they ask you, you know ‘can you do a dance routine’ and choreography. It’s not my strong point by any means but I have the tools to have a good go.”
What does Pantomime mean to you and why should people see it?
“It’s part of Christmas really. Christmas time is here because the panto is here! Yeah I think it signals the arrival of Christmas. People should come see it because I enjoy doing it and when I enjoy doing something people enjoy themselves!”
So is your career going to be based in the theatre for much longer or can we expect to see you on the small screen again?
“You’ve got to have an open mind in your career. I go where the work is. You get a lot of dramas coming up offering me parts you know ‘Blink and you miss me’ type things. It’s nice to be in the position of being able to pick and choose. I was up for a Children’s TV part and my first thought was ‘Children’s TV…hmmm’ but then I realised it was written by Henry Winkler and was based on his series of books and if it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for me!
“We’d all like to be James Bond but some of us have to be…”
This spellbinding tale combined with all the magic and fun of a traditional family pantomime promises to be an all-singing, all-dancing festive spectacular. The enchanting story of a young girl who learns to love the grizzled beast, thus releasing him from the cruel spell cast by the evil Carabosse is a favourite with Cresset Pantomime audiences.
There’s nothing like panto to get you in the mood for Christmas so don’t miss this great new production which runs until December 30. Book now on 01733 265705 or find out more on www.cresset.co.uk
Photos: Chris Brudenell